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LOPEZ-ORTIZ: Memes minimize severity of tragedies — reassess before posting them

Column: Food for Thought

Although some people consider them to be a form of dark humor, memes are problematic in times of crisis.  – Photo by Dovile Ramoskaite / Unsplash

On Feb. 24, Russia began its attack on Ukraine and ignited a frenzy on social media about a potential World War III. Tweets that made light of the topic, as it coincided with various pop culture moments, such as the season finale of "Euphoria," only highlighted how desensitized we have become to world tragedies.

Russia’s conflict with Ukraine has heightened after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent deployment of troops in eastern Ukraine and has cited his attack as a “special military operation.” This operation has frightened NATO and the U.S. and has left people wondering what the U.S. response will be.

News outlets and social media sites such as Twitter have shown scenes in Ukraine of Russian missiles flying and chaos ensuing reveals profound tragedy unfolding. Meanwhile, World War III memes have been trending on Twitter alongside the brutal images of the conflict.

While some might argue that dark humor is essential to getting through hardships society is facing, I think it demonstrates how people have become less empathetic to people who are experiencing the horrors of this conflict firsthand.

“Some 14,000 people — including many civilians — have died in fighting since then,” according to the BBC. Reports like this present how bloody the Russia-Ukraine conflict has become, and the recent invasion by Putin shows he has no plans of stopping the conflict.

As the news broke, I immediately headed to Twitter. While looking through my feed, I saw endless amounts of memes joking about a potential world war or jokingly proclaim how they themselves would prevent the war from happening.

I was absolutely horrified and disgusted to see how people could make jokes about this serious issue that could potentially expand. The Washington Post claims there could be a huge humanitarian crisis that could leave thousands of Ukrainians dead.

The lack of empathy these memes exhibit takes the conflict lightly and highlights the ignorance of others. Humor does not help in solving real-world issues or reduce the pain of these tragedies.

While some people might not see the harm in these memes or chuckle while seeing one, it demonstrates how some might not take foreign issues seriously or how it truly affects people. It also points out the ignorant sentiment that “since it is not happening to me, I don’t really care.”

The desensitization of wars has made the public lack any empathy for those who will probably have to leave their country and seek refuge somewhere else due to this conflict. Some individuals continue to make more memes despite how many people have lost their lives as a result of this conflict.

People should reflect on how these tweets would be received if a Ukrainian read their tweets and how they have to live in constant fear. This sentiment could be applied to any tragedy, not just this scenario.

Though I do agree, it is scary to live in these times and people might look for alternate ways to forget about this, I do not find making light of the situations is the right thing to do in any circumstance. This conflict is not the right place to make light of any tragedy.

This conflict is a real reality that Ukrainian citizens have to live through. How come this has become a trending topic on Twitter? Why do people feel the need to make light of this situation?

Memes being made about topics ranging from 9/11 to school shootings highlight how the increase of desensitization has made society worse and incapable of understanding real issues that impact the lives of many.

It has become the norm on social media for people to make a meme out of a tragedy. It should not be. Taking these situations lightly can be disastrous for our society and focuses less on the issues these people are facing.

I urge people to become aware of how this forthcoming war will affect the lives of millions of people and how to, instead of producing memes, inform themselves on ways of helping Ukrainians in this time of crisis. It brings me pain to see how this conflict will turn out and how many lives will have to be lost to end this bloody conflict.

Daisy Lopez-Ortiz is a first-year in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish. Her column, "Food for Thought," runs on alternate Tuesdays. 

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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